Lesson Plan

What's the Theme? Analyzing Character Motivation

Bring theme to life with Chris Van Allsburg's *The Sweetest Fig*, a story with a great message for young readers to discover. This lesson pairs a wonderful read-aloud with activities and fun videos to keep your students engaged.
Download lesson plan
Need extra help for EL students? Try the Inferring Character Motivation pre-lesson.
View aligned standards
Need extra help for EL students? Try the Inferring Character Motivation pre-lesson.

Learning Objectives

Students will understand that the theme is the central idea or underlying message of the text.

The adjustment to the whole group lesson is a modification to differentiate for children who are English learners.
EL adjustments


(15 minutes)
The Tale of Peter Rabbit
  • Engage students in a discussion about theme.
  • Ask them to think about all the possible themes they may come across in books, poems, or movies. For example: friendship or kindness.
  • Organize students into groups.
  • In their student groups, have students write a theme they remember on a piece of the 2x2 paper and say it out loud as they write.
  • Have them do this continuously in their groups for about a minute, writing as many themes as they can, building ideas off of their teammates.
  • Once the minute is up, have the students work together to organize their themes in different categories, whatever they choose.
  • Have some groups share out their themes and how they sorted them.


  • Provide several examples of themes from familiar stories in lieu of having students come up with examples.
  • Organize the themes as a whole class.


  • Provide a student-friendly definition for the word "theme."

Related Guided Lesson

Figurative Language

2 online games
8 online exercises
5 printable worksheets
View Guided Lesson
fifth grade
Subject Reading & Writing